Cell group. Growth group. Small group. Bible study. Prayer fellowship. Sunday school class. The usual “work camels” of many women’s ministries programs.
Having participated in and led all sorts of “camels” in the past 30 years or so, I’ve learned a few things about these “critters”: they can be either boon or bane. The reasons are legion. But with tongue planted firmly in cheek, here’s my wholly unscientific and purely subjective “short list” of Twenty Sure-Fire, Never-Fail, 100% Guaranteed Ways to Choke a Camel
(in no particular order. Do any of these sound familiar?):1. Avoid a clear-cut group goal.
Meander aimlessly from one disconnected text, topic or curriculum to the next. Make sure to aim at nothing so you can hit it every time.2. Do everything yourself.
Make sure "your" small group revolves around one personality: you*. Nix the concept of "team" or "leadership development." Never ask for volunteers or vary roles. Use a straight lecture format to squelch any meaningful interaction or participation from group members. (These options might add freshness, zest and relevance to your group - and we wouldn't want that!)3. Never prepare in advance.
No one notices seat-of-the-pants, fly-by-night “leadership” sans adequate preparation. If you don’t know what you’re doing, neither will anyone else. Just pray a lot. Expect God to bless your lack of commitment and irresponsibility.4.
Pattern your leadership style
after an M-1 Abrams tank. Anyone gets in your way or *dares* to “question your authority,” just run ‘em over. Bulldoze. Obfuscate. As a leader, purposely cultivate the “approachability” of a porcupine.5.
Demonstrate favoritism, exclusivity and cliquishness
at every opportunity. People will ride into your "camel corral" in droves as soon as they figure out they’re not one of your darlings.6.
Be sure to allow unresolved conflict to fester
. Ignore and neglect all conflict. Always take the ostrich approach and stick your head in the sand. Gloss over any “issues” without ever addressing them or creating a forum for constructive dialogue and problem-solving. That way the conflict can become a cancer and spread, infecting the entire group over time.7. Never connect
outside of your designated meeting time. Isolate yourself and make sure all members do likewise. Keep relationships as superficial, artificial and shallow as much as you can for as long as you can.8.
Keep your commitment to your "camels" as flaky
as a box of Corn Flakes. Place your group and its members so far down your “food chain” of priorities that they rarely see the light of day. Make sure you cram your calendar with all kinds of “more importants” and more pressing priorities.9. Maintain a hidden personal agenda
that you can bash people over the head with at every opportunity.10.
Never come alongside someone who’s hurting or offer a kind word, a warm hug or engage in meaningful acts of service and compassion. Instead, inject knee-jerk judgments, canned answers and trite clichés into every sticky situation so you don't have to do the hard work of thinking, listening, empathizing or cultivating authentic relationships. Disinterest and detachment are great relational building blocks.11
. If a regular attendee leaves your group for no discernible reason, don’t bother to follow up or find out why. (You may have to check into item #6 above, and that could take work!)12. Never reach out to or invite anyone new.
This way you can corner the market on ingrown myopia. (After all, you don’t want anyone “new” coming in and messing things up!)13. Allow one person to dominate
the corral and monopolize every discussion. A twist on this theme: Blame shy members for being shy. Never bother trying to create or cultivate an atmosphere where everyone is accepted and can feel “safe.” 14. Cancel constantly.
Always leave people hanging so they never know when or if you’re meeting. Consistent inconsistency is terrific for achieving group cohesion, unity and purpose. Variation on a theme:
never start on time. Constantly disrespecting other people’s time by keeping your starting time in a perpetual state of flux and flakiness. This is always appreciated.15. Gossip and rumor monger
as much as possible. Eliminate confidentiality right off the bat, and never track a rumor back to its source.16. Make decisions unilaterally
without soliciting feedback or opinions from group members. You know it all, so don’t bother getting anyone else’s opinion, feedback, or preference.17.
As a leader, be as detached and unresponsive as you can. Never return phone calls in a timely manner. Never check or reply to email. After all, you're a leader and you’re busy!18.
Pay more attention to the clock than to people. Make it clear that you intend to drop kick members out the door the minute your time is “up” and the “regular programming” has concluded. Cut off discussions and freeze dry conversations so you can be tied to the clock rather than relationships.19.
When (not if) you make mistakes, never admit to or own up to them
. Instead, find someone else to blame, frame, or defame. Whatever you do, NEVER apologize
or try to make amends.20.
Finally, and especially – be sure to lead your
work camel in your own strength. Never pray for anyone or seek God’s guidance, wisdom or help. Do everything yourself and always in the flesh. God will certainly “bless” your hard work!
* The word "you" is used in the generic sense.